Judge: Health care challenge premature

Published 11:22 pm Sunday, September 16, 2012

JACKSON (AP) — Gov. Phil Bryant and other Mississippi residents were premature in their challenge to the federal law requiring people to buy health care insurance, a federal judge has ruled.

District Judge Keith Starrett also knocked the governor and another man out as plaintiffs. Both have health insurance, and wouldn’t be affected by the law unless they dropped that insurance.

In an order signed Aug. 23, he said two remaining plaintiffs’ privacy claims would have to be brought later, because rules involving disclosure and protection of personal information are still being worked out.

Email newsletter signup

“Therefore, plaintiffs’ privacy claims are not ripe for judicial resolution,” he wrote.

Mississippi Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, is an attorney for the plaintiffs. They either will appeal Starrett’s ruling or refile the suit later, he said.

“Either way, we are going to keep fighting,” he said.

Bryant and 10 others sued in April 2010, broadly challenging the constitutional merits of the law, which imposes tax penalties on people without health insurance beginning in 2014.

Earlier rulings dismissed seven plaintiffs for failing to comply with discovery orders.

Starrett’s August opinion further dismisses without prejudice Bryant and another of the remaining plaintiffs for lack of standing.

McDaniel has said the part of the lawsuit remaining in litigation evokes the right to medical privacy established by the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which decided medical privacy extended to a woman’s right to have an abortion.

He said the federal government forcing Americans to disclose medical information to an insurer — or a private third party — would violate the rights to medical privacy supported by decades of court rulings.